Chicago at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford
Chicago is one of these shows that appears to get more and more relevant with time as opposed to dating. Chicago is a show that is all about the power and cult of celebrity, how it can be all consuming for some and yet so fickle. This point is ironically enhanced by the casting of Sam Bailey as Mama Morton, the winner of the 10th series of the X Factor and John Partridge as Billy Flynn, who recently appeared in the Celebrity Big Brother House.
Chicago is set in the mid 1920’s and tells that story of Roxie Hart, a chorus girl who is accused of murdering her lover. She manages to convince her husband to hire Billy Flynn, the go to lawyer for women on murderess row, to represent her. After some work with Billy, Roxie soon becomes the media’s darling and boy does she relish it. Also on murderess row is Velma Kelly who was part of a successful vaudeville double act, until she killed her sister and double act partner. As Roxie’s fame grows, Velma’s notoriety becomes old news but they eventually realise that they need each other in order to fuel their own ambitions.
The lead parts of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly are played by Hayley Tamaddon and Sophie Carmen-Jones respectively. Both of these women play the parts with seeming ease. They both ooze sexuality in the dance numbers and it is easy to see how Roxie has the jury eating out of the palm of her hand as she Razzle Dazzles them. John Partridge takes on the role of Billy Flynn and despite a few missed or mumbled words in his entrance number carries the role well ranging from ruthless lawyer to smooth media manipulator with ease. I also can’t let the review pass without mentioning the other celebrity casting, Sam Bailey, as Mama Morton. I was impressed by her acting and of course she had a great voice. On occasions however I would have liked to see her let go vocally a little bit more and give it a bit more welly!!
You can’t review Chicago and not mention the choreography (I’m sure it is an unwritten rule) but it was pitched just right. The Fosse element of the show remained strong and the ensemble performed the choreography well, with the skin tight, effective costumes showing off these movements. The highlights of the show for me were when the ensemble were performing the choreography en masse allowing something as small as a finger click to be enhanced such as during ‘All that Jazz’ or the ‘press Conference Rag.’.
Chicago is always staged in a very similar fashion with the band on stage, the company around the edge of the stage watching the action unfold with no other set. This serves to enhance the Vaudeville feel of the show and is refreshing to watch when so many big shows now rely upon huge sets and technical effects. There were a few moments when the lighting slightly missed the mark, either with the follow spots missing the actor or the actor missing their mark on the stage occasionally. This however can be put down to it being the first night at the Orchard Theatre that I saw.
Velma asks in the show, ‘What became of Class?’ Well after a night out watching this show it’s perfectly apparent that the class was right in front of our eyes.
Click here to find out more about the current tour of Chicago.